Uncut Gems

This movie opens with a very artistic shot that turns out to be taking place deep in Adam Sandler’s ass as he sleeps. So, it turns out that Sandler needed to be sedated in order to create the most calm moment in the film.

I think the most impressive part about this movie is that it genuinely made me feel like I was on cocaine. The entire time. All 2 hours and 14 minutes of it. And while those kind of tense thrills are certainly one of the reasons we go to the movies, the difficult part about Uncut Gems is that there never seemed to be a break from that tensions. So instead of feeling the ups and downs of this film as though you were on a roller coaster, the audience is instead kept at the top wondering how much higher this ride is supposed to go.


Adam Sandler plays New York City jeweler Howard Ratner. In addition to wheeling and dealing precious gems, Ratner is also a massively addicted sports gambler primarily focused on basketball. Within the first 30 minutes of the movie, we watch Howard set up a series of deals involving pawning jewelry that isn’t his to pay off one bookie only to try and place another bet elsewhere. If that situation sounds stressful to you, then you’ve got just a taste of what the audience is subjected to throughout the film.


Accompanied by some surprisingly heavy hitters like Lakeith Stanfield and Judd Hirsch, the film also stars some relatively unknown actors like Julia Fox, Idina Menzel and tip of your tongue character actor Eric Bogosian. The film also stars The Weeknd as well as NBA star Kevin Garnett (in much more than just a cameo), to round out a really impressive cast.


The cast isn’t the only impressive part of the movie. Truth be told, the story concept is excellent. The elements themselves are well thought out and the twists and turns can certainly keep you on your toes. The problems arise in the execution of the story. The majority of the dialogue isn’t so much back and forth as it is people constantly talking over each other which, even in a scene which doesn’t have an argument, raises the stress levels and makes the conversations seem antagonistic. And although the parts are extremely well-acted, the writing and interactions between characters are much more realistic than most films. While this might have been done to try to maintain a certain genuine nature, the truth is that it becomes more disruptive and distracting than true to life.


Unfortunately, because we’re seeing good elements of film but bad execution, the credit for these missteps would have to go to Josh and Benny Safdie. As the directors, they should have been able to better translate these elements from the script and onto the screen. Although they haven’t quite hit the big time yet, the Safdie brothers have had enough experience on their previous films (Daddy Long Legs, Heaven Knows What) that they should by now understand how to control the tone of the film and to generate highs and lows to give people a chance to catch their breath. Instead the pacing of the film becomes at first exhilarating and then exhausting until you’re finally leaving the theater feeling as though you’d run a marathon.


If the thrill of hustling, gambling and always taking chances appeals to you, then this modern retelling of the Book of Job mixed with Steinbeck’s The Pearl may in fact be for you. Just be prepared for the journey with this one. Make sure you stretch and hydrate beforehand.


3 stars out of 5